Wednesday, June 16, 2021
June 16, 2021

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Vancouver couple arrested in starvation death of adopted child

By , Columbian staff writer

The adoptive parents of a 15 year-old Vancouver boy who died from starvation and neglect in November were arrested Friday in Stockton, Calif.

Jesse Costillo Franks, 56, and Felicia Adams-Franks, 52, will be extradited to Clark County to appear on domestic violence charges of second-degree murder and homicide by abuse.

A warrant was issued for their arrests on May 28, and their whereabouts were unknown at the time, according to the Vancouver Police Department.

Adams-Franks legally adopted Karreon Franks and his two younger brothers in June 2012 in California; she is their maternal aunt, court records show.

Karreon reportedly had a rare genetic disorder that affected his development and severe autism, to the point he was nearly nonverbal. He was also legally blind and used a cane to get around, according to court records.

The charging documents for both Adams and Franks state that prosecutors are seeking a sentence above the standard sentencing range, based on several aggravating factors: deliberate cruelty to the victim, the victim was particularly vulnerable, violating a position of trust and the crime was committed by a household member.

The Vancouver Police Department had been investigating the circumstances of Karreon’s death since early December.

On Nov. 27, Adams and Franks took Karreon to PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead 14 minutes later. Bilateral pneumonia was listed as his cause of death at the time, according to a search warrant affidavit.

However, when the boy’s body was transferred to a Vancouver funeral home, staff reported “concerns with Karreon’s appearance,” the search warrant affidavit says. The Clark County Medical Examiner’s Office then responded and conducted an autopsy.

Adams-Franks told the medical examiner’s office that Karreon’s brothers were giving him a bath on the morning of Nov. 27 when she heard them yelling for him to get into the bathtub. She went to assist, she said. That’s when Karreon became unresponsive in the bathtub, the probable cause affidavit states.

The autopsy report, which authorities received May 14, found Karreon weighed 61 pounds and showed abnormal bone and hair growth, as well as lesions, likely caused by starvation, court records state. When he was last seen by his physician in 2019, he weighed 115 pounds, the probable cause affidavit says.

A PeaceHealth Southwest emergency room nurse had contacted Child Protective Services when the couple brought Karreon in. She noted that he was frail and emaciated, weighing 70 pounds. CPS workers and law enforcement responded to their residence the next day and took Karreon’s brothers into protective custody, according to the probable cause affidavit.

That was the second time CPS responded to the residence in about a week. Adams-Frank’s sister, Leticia Brown, contacted CPS Nov. 20 after she discovered her sister had been withholding food from the boys as punishment for years, according to court records.